L-R: French Wetmore, consultant to the Flood Authority; Lara Fowler, former consultant to the Flood Authority; Mark Sigler, Building Official with Grays Harbor County; Orlando Howell, Building Official and Floodplain Administrator, City of Hoquiam; and David Curtis, consultant to the Flood Authority.
The James Lee Witt Local Award for Excellence in
Floodplain Management recognizes outstanding programs or activities at the
front lines of floodplain management–local programs where “the rubber
meets the road.”
The Chehalis River in
Washington is a notorious flooder, but it was in the wake of a devastating 2007
flood that the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority was formed. We all
know that it’s very hard…not impossible, but very hard to tackle something on
your own. But there is strength in numbers. The “authority” is made up of three
counties–Lewis, Grays Harbor and Thurston–as well as 10 cities and towns,
and also works closely with the Chehalis and Quinault Tribes.
Over the past decade, it has
led an aggressive program to mitigate flood risk, reduce flood damage, and
increase flood threat awareness in order to transform floodplain management in
the basin from a reactive to a proactive culture. Program highlights include
unique loss reduction projects such as: retrofitting homes with effective flood
vents; constructing “Farm Pads” at numerous rural locations to save livestock, farm
equipment and feed.
While the flood authority has had numerous effective
basin initiatives, of note is the adoption of improved regulatory standards and
implementation of an innovative flood warning system. Because of these
initiatives, communities and residents in the Chehalis River Basin are now
substantially more aware and better prepared for flooding than ever before.
flood authority board member, was recently quoted in the local newspaper,
saying, “We’re the ground-level people. This is the only place where we have
all these cities that are at the table. It’s really nice that we all go
together to the Legislature to get things done and that the tribes are with us
too. … We’ve done a heck of a lot.” And ASFPM couldn’t agree more.